First of all, congratulations to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood for winning the first ever Beneath the Tangles March Madness tournament! It seems the show has won a lot of fans’ hearts, and that is no doubt in part thanks to the writing skills of the original mangaka, Hiromu Arakawa. So you might be wondering what other works she has written, and if they have been adapted into anime. Well, if you are looking for more animated works adapted from Arakawa-sensei’s pen… chances are, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is closer in style to Fullmetal Alchemist and more what you are looking for. But, if you are willing to step beyond the action fantasy genre into something much more down to earth, I highly encourage you to check out Silver Spoon.
Silver Spoon (Japanese title: Gin no Saji) tells the story of city boy Yuugo Hachiken, who ends up attending an agriculture high school and quickly finds himself feeling like a fish out of water. While at school, he learns about the ins and outs of farm life, including all the things he did not know about farming, the things he wish he did not know about farming… and in some cases, things the other farm-raised students did not know about farming, or at least how an outsider views it. This leads to all sorts of events from the comical to the serious, including facing the reality that, yes, farming involves raising animals to be killed for their food.
Normally, with my recommendations for this column, I prefer to note any potential objectionable content at the end of a post; this time, though, I will bring it up here. After all, this show is overall devoid of your usual objectionable content; there’s practically no violence to speak of, the show hardly makes any use of religion, and as for sexual content, the only bare breasts you will find are cow udders and pig teats. However, what this show does have is a challenge for its viewers: a challenge to face the reality of where they get their food from.
Arakawa-sensei uses her own experiences growing up on a farm in writing Silver Spoon, and I think she at least in part wanted to use that story to make readers (and eventually anime viewers) think about how farms supply us with food (among other things). At the very least, having the story told from Hachiken’s point of view allows him to effectively serve as an audience stand-in, as his reactions to the truths of farm life would more likely mirror ours. For example, early on in the show he must come to terms with how animals are raised only to be killed and turned into meat. Later on, he finds himself facing even more grim realities of farm life, including the “do or die” life that is pushed on the animals, and the financial problems farms face. These eventually force him to face the realities of his own life, including his doubt over his self-worth and his strained relationship with his family.
In the words of a veterinarian that Hachiken means, “having a dream requires having the resolve to struggle with reality”. These words stay with him and ultimately push him through the story. Even if he does not always accept reality for what it is, he still faces it head on to find his own way of dealing with that reality. Likewise, we can learn from this show to face not only the reality of the source of our food, but also the other things in our life we do not like to look at. The show provides no right or wrong answer to any of the moral dilemmas Hachiken faces; it simply shows how things are and lets the viewers decide the rest. Likewise, when facing our own realities, we might not always find a clear right or wrong answer. We might not even find anything resembling a solution. But there is progress in the mere act of acknowledging reality, rather than pretending it does not exist. Christians in particular benefit far more from facing truth than hiding from it, as our God has always been the God of truth, and will help us work through whatever realities we face.
With that said, there is far more to Silver Spoon than just a chance to evaluate our own stance on raising animals for food. There is lots of character development for not just Hachiken, but his various classmates, and it comes together in a story that can be both funny and emotional. Fans of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood can rest assured that, while the genre of the story could not be more different, Silver Spoon has every bit as much of Arakawa-sensei’s writing quality as her more famous work (here in the West, that is).
Silver Spoon can be streamed on Crunchyroll.